2.2 THE MIDDLE CLASS AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
As industry became as common as agriculture a new social class emerged. The middle class, as it was called, earned its own money and consisted of factory owners, engineers, lawyers, doctors and others. They fought for their right to more freedom: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and, not least, economic freedom, i.e. the right to trade and run their own businesses without interference from the state.
At the end of the 1700s these new social groups rebelled in America and France, and demanded more rights. After these two “freedom revolutions” as they were called, human rights were transformed into law in these countries. The new governments wrote two important documents: “the American Declaration of Independence in 1776” and “the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789”. Modern American and French societies are based on these documents.
The documents also heavily influenced the rest of the world and several countries followed their lead. Human rights were incorporated into many European constitutions. The Norwegian Constitution from 1814, for example, ensures individual rights such as freedom of expression, commercial freedom, the protection of property rights, the right not to be punished without being convicted, and so on.
Even though human rights gained a place in very influential documents there were still more theory than practice at that time, and they did not apply to everyone. In many countries only freemen with property, i.e. the upper class and the new middle class, had rights. Women were completely ignored.